Another month of growth for UK manufacturing output

Posted on 12 May 2015 by Jonny Williamson

Total production output increased 0.5% between Q4 2014 and Q1 2015, according to the latest Index of Production (IoP) figures, with manufacturing being the largest component.

Released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the figures estimate that manufacturing increased between 0.1% between Oct – Dec 2014 and Jan – March 2015.

The largest contributor to the quarterly came from electricity, gas, steam & air conditioning, which rose by 2.7%.

Compared to the previous year, March 2015 saw a total production output increase of 0.7% – with manufacturing once again being the largest contributor with 1.1% growth.

Manufacturing output increased by 0.4% between February and March of this year, with principal contributors being basic pharmaceutical product & pharmaceutical preparations; other manufacturing & repair, and rubber, plastic products and other non-metallic mineral products.

According to ONS, the other manufacturing and repair industry accounts for around 8.8% of manufacturing output, and encompasses a diverse range of sub-industries including furniture; jewellery; musical instruments; games & toys; medical & dental instruments, and repair and installations of machinery & equipment.

“Repair and installation of machinery and equipment is driven mainly by high value, milestone payment-based contracts and is hence more volatile, particularly for repair and maintenance of ships & boats, and repair and maintenance of aircraft & spacecraft,” ONS said.

Compared to the pre-downturn peak in Q1 2008, the three months to March (Q1 2015) saw production and manufacturing 10.2% and 4.8% respectively below the previous figures.

Lee Hopley, chief economist, EEF.
Lee Hopley, chief economist, EEF.

Chief economist at EEF, Lee Hopley commented: “Today’s IoP follows the less than encouraging picture emerging from last month’s GDP figures. Growth in manufacturing output has slowed to 0.1% for the first quarter of 2015, following a weaker than expected performance in key export markets and some domestic headwinds.

“Despite the slackening pace of growth, manufacturing output has increased every single quarter in the past two years and with surveys showing solid industry confidence this is expected to continue through 2015.

“Still, recent data releases reinforce business calls for government to stick with its industrial strategy and maintain funding for important levers of growth, including research and innovation and support for exporters.”

Mike Rigby, head of manufacturing, Barclays.
Mike Rigby, head of manufacturing, Barclays.

Head of Manufacturing at Barclays, Mike Rigby said: “These figures chime with what we’re hearing from manufacturers across the country who speak of buoyancy in order books and active sales enquiries.

“The issue that does continue to trouble the sector, however, is the strength of sterling and with the impact this has on competitiveness within our main export market, the Eurozone, the prospect of an export-led recovery remains challenging.”

Chris Sumner, managing director, FANUC UK.
Chris Sumner, managing director, FANUC UK.

With more than 30 years in UK manufacturing, Chris Sumner, managing director of FANUC UK – one of the nation’s largest robotics and automation providers – said: “Today’s positive IoP statistics comes as good news for the newly-elected Government, with domestic orders continuing to increase in the Construction and Auto Component sectors.

“As the pound grows in strength and we enter a period of political stability, further investment will be made in manufacturing infrastructure across the industry to support this growth in demand.”